Playing with Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story


Adventure / Documentary

IMDb Rating 7.8 10 246

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July 23, 2021 at 09:00 PM



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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by trinaboice 10 / 10

Inspiring and educational

IN A NUTSHELL: Thank you to Disney for sending me this press screener. This Australian feature is from two-time Emmy®-nominated director Sally Aitken. A true pioneer in both underwater filmmaking and shark research, Valerie Taylor is a living legend and icon in the underwater world whose life's work has become the basis for much of what we know about sharks today.

Through remarkable underwater archival footage, along with interviews with Valerie herself, "Playing with Sharks," follows this daring ocean explorer's trajectory from champion spearfisher to passionate shark protector. From the birth of cage diving to "Jaws" hysteria to the dawn of cageless shark diving, Valerie became a trailblazing advocate for the ocean's most maligned and misunderstood creatures.

THINGS I LIKED: Valerie Taylor began her love of the ocean when she learned how to spear-fish. She entered and won many competitions, which is where she met her husband. After killing for years, they both decided they never wanted to take life anymore, but instead, protect it. Ever since that moment, they became powerful advocates for marine conservation.

One of the people being interviewed in the film describes sharks as "submarines with teeth." It's fun to hear everyone's thoughts the first time they saw a shark.

It was fascinating to learn about how some of the filming was done for the box office hit Jaws. It was also interesting to learn how much the movie influenced the public's perception of sharks in general and how people began going on shark-killing expeditions soon after. Needless to say, Valerie was heartbroken.

We get to learn about the conservation efforts that have been made to save sharks since the public is so fearful of them. You'll definitely begin to look at sharks differently.

It's always impressive and inspiring to learn about people who have been on the cutting edge of their field and who have left an incredible legacy. In addition to sharks, Valerie Taylor's marine conservation legacy includes saving the Great Barrier Reef, potato cod (grouper), and the Australian fur seal.

Valerie has always been an upbeat person, so there is some humorous banter in the film.

You get to see Valerie Taylor as a young, brave woman, as well as watch footage of recent interviews with her as an 83-year old adventurous woman still wearing her signature red ribbon, inspired by Jacques Cousteau's famous red beret. You can see how passionate she is about sharks. In the film, she states, "I will probably be diving when I'm in a wheelchair."

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: I would love to have seen images of the most prevalent sharks and identify which ones were safe or not. Many years ago, I was snorkeling in St. Thomas and ran across a nurse shark. At the time, I had no idea what a nurse shark was and that it was basically harmless, so I was absolutely terrified. I swam back to shore as fast as I could and expected my legs to be bitten off at any moment. When I finally had the courage to look back, I saw that the nurse shark wasn't interested in me in the slightest and had simply swum off casually in the opposite direction. Scary!

Ultimately, the documentary is more about the living legacy of Valerie Taylor than just sharks.

TIPS FOR PARENTS: You see a lot of sharks and fish being killed.

Valerie does a LOT of dangerous things. Point out to your kids that they should never do those things!

You can see the rest of my review on my Movie Review Mom YouTube channel!

Reviewed by jordanand94 10 / 10

Gorgeous and thought-provoking film

Saw the premiere of this film through Sundance online and wow, this film was magnificent. I had never heard of Valerie Taylor before but was intrigued by the synopsis I read online; long story short, Taylor's relationship with sharks started with spear fishing and she was very notable in her native Australia for it, but she and her husband put an end to their spear fishing days after they realized it was wrong. After Taylor's epiphany moment from killing one shark in particular, she and her husband instead became ambassadors to sharks and advocates for their conservation. They helped revolutionize and change society's interpretations of sharks as a whole and helped society sway away from the social construct that they are soulless, killing machines. Despite this though, as the documentary points out, we still have a long way to go to giving sharks the protection they truly deserve. Through gorgeous cinematography and great storytelling, the film achieves what it aims to.

Reviewed by greg-1649 10 / 10

A MUST SEE for all Nature Lovers

Stunning, & brilliantly executed. A must see for all those who love the underwater universe .

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